Recently, Ligonier Ministries and Lifeway Research released their “State of Theology” survey. In the study, 3,000 American Christians were surveyed on various theological and moral positions.
58% of respondents agreed with the statement “Worshipping alone or with one’s family is a valid replacement for regularly attending church.”
It’s one thing for a non-Christian to believe that. But for Christians?! The Christian life is not a solo sport. There are several reasons why worshipping and involvement in a local church is essential to our Spiritual growth and to Christian living.
It is God’s will that his people be connected to His Church. One of the clearest teachings on this subject is Hebrews 10: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another” (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Romans 12:4-5 says, “For as in one body we have many members,e]”>[e] and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”
Many people like to listen to podcasts of well known preachers, and treat that almost as if that’s their church. But it’s not. Because church is done in actual community..
Church matters for our growth
Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron,
and one man sharpens another.”
At the heart of the gospel message is the undeniable reality: you’re not perfect. You’re flawed, you’re sinful. When we come to faith in Jesus, we are forgiven but that’s where the journey begins. The rest of life is an opportunity to grow in the knowledge of the goodness of God, in maturity, and in love.
Titus 2:1-9 is a great section on the topic of community. Part of what Paul is saying in that section is that the older men and women are both to conduct themselves in Godliness and to also train and encourage the younger men and women to be self-controlled, dignified, and honorable. That requires community.
Church isn’t just about what we get but what we can give
Every believer in the gospel is given Spiritual gifts from God (1 Corinthians 12:7). And we’re given those gifts for a purpose. Not so we can do our own thing or worship in our own way but so we can serve and build up God’s church.
In 1 Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul calls the church Christ’s body and explains how every believer is part of that body. Some are eyes, others are ears, etc. Everyone is part of the body and every part of the body matters to the function of the body. No part can survive on its own, apart from the body. And the Body of Christ needs all of its parts.
Paul says in Ephesians 4: “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
Church matters because there are certain things that can only be done in the context of church
Jesus gave two ordinances to his Church. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Both are meant to be done in the context of the body of Christ. If you were to just dunk yourself in a swimming pool, that isn’t baptism. If you were to just eat some bread with some wine or grape juice, by yourself, that wouldn’t be communion. Both baptism and the Lord’ Supper are commands of Christ (Luke 22:19; Matthew 28:19).
The church also matters from a perspective of pastoral care. The Bible uses many metaphors comparing the people of God to a flock. Flocks need shepherds. Jesus is called the good shepherd. Pastors and elders are called to serve as the shepherds to Christ’s flock. Apart from the church, a person is not under that pastoral care. A second function of elders is also to hold people in the church accountable and to continually encourage and challenge people in their faith. When people are walking in unrepentant sin, the church and elders are called upon to work to restore a person in their faith. This can’t happen outside of the church. Sadly, we have such a watered down view of commitment to church that this discipline is hard to practice because many people would leave a church rather than repent.
No matter how good a pastor on a podcast is, he doesn’t know you or your family, or what your struggles have been.
Some people are opposed to organized religion and the church. Unfortunately, there are people who abuse roles within the church. But that doesn’t change the fact that the Church is Christ’s institution. Jesus loved the church and gave himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25).
Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear what you think, and don’t forget to subscribe!
Josh Benner is the associate pastor at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Fergus Falls, Minnesota and has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in Minnesota.